THREAD: I've realized that a lot of my script development conversations with clients revolve around the same thing: introducing as much conflict as possible. The more conflict, the more interesting the scenes, characters, and, thus, the script becomes. Wanted to discuss that. 1/
Obligatory Parental Advisory Tweet: These are simply my opinions; Your Mileage May Vary; This advice is freely given and may be freely ignored; None of it should be taken as canon or rules that must be followed. As @jelenawoehr noted: "if it don't apply let if fly." 2/
Where I often start with clients is a question I ask before they've even formally started outlining. That question being: Who is the most INTERESTING person to be our protagonist? And "most interesting" usually equates to: Who creates the most conflict? 3/
As DIE HARD is one of my favorite films, I'm once again going to use it as an example. The film is set in a Los Angeles office tower used as the headquarters of a multi-national corporation. The antagonists are urbane European thieves. So who's the protagonist? 4/
A blue-collar, outspoken NYPD cop. Oh yeah, and he's estranged from his corporate executive wife who works in the building. And, for added visual contrast, he's dressed in a plain white t-shirt and doesn't have shoes. 5/
He's the exact opposite of all the people with whom she shares scenes (with the exception of his eventual buddy, Al Powell.) You put him in a scene (or even on the radio) with anyone and he's automatically arguing with them, whether they're Hans Gruber or a 911 operator. 6/
Two characters arguing is fun to write and fun to read. It allows you to get out exposition, both internal, and external. Two people who agree? That's pretty boring and often creates issues in getting out exposition. 7/
This is why protagonists are so often loners or people on the fringe of society or independent thinkers. Or even simply just the new kid in town. They stand in opposition, by their very nature, with the rest of the people in your script. 8/
And they're intriguing characters -- they have a reason they're different from everyone else and it's usually quite an interesting one. Their worldview often automatically puts them in conflict with the prevailing worldview. Hence immediate drama. 9/
And conflict isn't simply limited to who your main character is - it should also be tied into who your antagonist is. Because we judge our heroes by what they overcome. And if the antagonist is an easy obstacle, then we don't give them very high marks. 10/
So, as smart, talented, and savvy as your hero is -- your antagonist needs to be their match. They should be able to go toe to toe with your hero. The hero only coming out on top because they're just a bit smarter -- or the villain has a built-in character flaw. A blind spot. 11/
This scene from, of course, DIE HARD is a perfect example of a well-matched protagonist and antagonist. It's the scene where Hans Gruber, checking on the detonators, runs into John McClane. 12/
Neither of them has seen the other yet, so McClane doesn't know Hans is Hans. And Hans is smart enough to immediately put on an American accent and pretend to be an executive who escaped from the 'terrorists.' Yet another example of why Hans is such a fantastic antagonist. 13/
But because McClane is a great hero, he's also no dummy. He's nice enough to Hans, but immediately quizzes him on what his name is. Testing him. And since he has a personnel directory nearby (in his eyeline only), he can judge Hans' answer immediately. 14/
Once again, since Hans is so damn smart, he offers up the name Bill Clay. Who happens to be on that directory under William Clay. (Whether Hans got lucky or, since he's so smart, memorized the names is unclear. But since he's the bad guy, he gets to get away with that.) 15/
So now Hans has passed McClane's test. To show trust, McClane offers Hans a handgun for protection. And now Hans has McClane where he wants him. Hans levels the gun and demands his detonators. 16/
But, once again, McClane is no dummy. Hans pulls the trigger but... No bullets in the gun. Hans may be clever, but McClane is the hero. He's always one step ahead. And we love him for that. He's a savvy, smart, determined hero - and the star of one of the greatest films ever.17/
That scene is the movie in a microcosm and a perfect example of why it's held in such high esteem. Every victory that John McClane has in that film, he 100% earns. Nothing is given to him, he never gets lucky. 18/
That's a final point about conflict. Everything must always be as hard as possible for your hero. If something can go wrong, it should go wrong. The harder you make it for your hero, the more rewarding that victory will be -- and the more admiration we'll have for them. 19/
Villains can (and should) get lucky a lot. They can get those lucky breaks that save the day for them. Because every time they do, it makes the hero's job even harder. Thus creating more conflict, more drama, and a more satisfying victory. 20/
A smart, and rewarding, exercise is to go through every single scene of your outline and ask -- how can I make this harder for my hero? Is there a way I can increase conflict, increase the difficulty for them? Make them have to be smarter to accomplish their goal? 21/
I remember hearing that, during preparation for the Escape from the Mines of Moria sequence in LOTR 1, Peter Jackson had asked a seemingly simple question. What if the stairs start to crumble? 22/
That single question ramped up the conflict 1000% percent and took it from a simple rush down some stairs into an iconic sequence. It's a perfect example of making something simple into something incredibly difficult -- and thus amazing to watch. 23/
As always, hope that's helpful for everyone! Let me know if you have any questions or anything that needs clarification. END

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More from @johnzaozirny

9 Sep
THREAD: In the six years since it was published in @empiremagazine, I've thought a lot about an interview they did with @chrismcquarrie. Bizarrely, the interview isn't on their website anymore, but @GoIntoTheStory quoted the most relevant section: gointothestory.blcklst.com/interview-writ… 1/
The particular quote that really opened up my eyes and which I've sent to many, many clients was the following one. (It's a long section, so will quote it out over several tweets.) 2/
"I was trying very hard to make their movies the way I would make mine. And not make their movies the way they wanted them made. If I could distil it, that would be it. 3/
Read 16 tweets
6 Sep
THREAD: I've taken out a lot of feature spec screenplays to the marketplace over the years, but when I do it with a new client and walk them through it, I'm reminded how complex it can initially seem to be. Thought I would step out what my process on it usually entails. 1/
Obligatory Parental Advisory Tweet: These are simply my opinions; Your Mileage May Vary; This advice is freely given and may be freely ignored; As @jelenawoehr wrote: "if it don't apply let if fly." (I love this and hope @jelenawoehr is okay that I continue to quote it!) 2/
First step is, obviously, getting the script in as strong shape as possible. Once everyone -- the writer, myself, the agents (if they have agents) -- feels the script is ready to go out, we finalize a "send out" draft and materials. 3/
Read 38 tweets
1 Sep
THREAD: I had a couple of calls last week with recent USC grads as part of their General Meeting program. They got me thinking about how underrated general meetings are, as well as what's worked best for my clients going on them. So wanted to do a thread discussing them. 1/
So as to avoid the Sturm und Drang of the last thread, I'm gonna post up a Parental Advisory going forward: These are simply my opinions; Your Mileage May Vary; This advice is freely given and may be freely ignored; As @jelenawoehr puts it: "if it don't apply let if fly." 2/
First, want to clarify what a general meeting for a writer is. It's a meeting with someone (usually an exec at a studio, network, or production company) after they've read your material. The exec liked your material and now wants to get to know you. 3/
Read 28 tweets
11 Aug
THREAD: These last few days have been hard. To have a writer whose work I’m a fan of and whose podcast is so influential focus on attacking me has been painful. I’ve refrained from replying so far, but now that my intentions are being questioned, I wanted to speak about them. 1/
I’ve been on Twitter for a while but wasn’t previously very active. When quarantine hit, I started spending more time on Twitter and being more active on it. I’ve been fortunate enough to have people help me and I was hoping I could be similarly helpful to other people. 2/
If some of those threads I wrote made it seem like they were “rules” or the only way of doing things, then I’m sorry. In the future, I’ll be sure to indicate that they’re merely my opinion. 3/
Read 15 tweets
8 Aug
THREAD: Was commenting on @nevslin's thread (Follow him! He does great twitter!) and somehow wound up talking up small things (fonts, etc.) that execs/reps fixate on. What's my fixation? Time of Day in sluglines. Wanted to do a quick thread on what is often done wrong. 1/
For the purposes of clarity, when I say Time of Day in sluglines, I mean the DAY part in:

INT. JOHN'S HOUSE - DAY

2/
I would say the ones I see used badly most often are:

MOMENTS LATER
LATER
CONTINUOUS
SAME

These are almost always used incorrectly. And you really don't need to use them that much. They're for specific occasions only. What are those occasions?
3/
Read 19 tweets
8 Aug
THREAD: I recently passed on something using a phrase that's probably the one I use most often to pass:

"Doesn't feel unique enough for the marketplace."

I wanted to talk about what that expression means and why that's my most-used reason for passing. 1/
I use that exact expression (or a variation of it) when passing on queries or when I'm discussing a client's potential ideas for their next project. I'd say it's probably 50-75% of the reason I pass on things. 2/
The simple fact is that the marketplace for film and TV content is as crowded as it's ever been. There are more outlets putting out content than ever before. There are so many shows, movies, and so on. And more pilots & scripts out there than ever before. 3/
Read 23 tweets

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